Sources for general astronomy

Text in quotes and italics are direct from the sites 

Lectures, textbooks, instruction

Free eBooks Free downloadable books from NASA

Portal to the Universe

The latest news on everything astronomy

Hobby Space

Lots of links and information on how to get involved in space/astronomy as a hobby from science fiction to building your own satellite.

Astronomy Encylopedia

The Encyclopedia of Astrobiology, Astronomy, and Spaceflight. A nice easy look up resource.

Windows on the Universe

"Windows to the Universe is a user-friendly learning system covering the Earth and Space sciences for use by the general public. Windows to the Universe has been in development since 1995. Our goal is to build an internet site that includes a rich array of documents, including images, movies, animations, and data sets, that explore the Earth and Space sciences and the historical and cultural ties between science, exploration, and the human experience. Our site is appropriate for use in libraries, museums, schools, homes, and the workplace. Students and teachers may find the site especially helpful in their studying (and teaching!) Earth and Space sciences."

All parts of the site are presented in three levels: elementary, middle school and high school.  There is quite a lot here.  There are classroom activates and announcements of workshops for teachers. 

The Electronic Sky

An online encyclopedia of everything astronomy.  Well laid out, easy to use, up to date.
"Welcome to The Electronic Sky, a site dedicated to the entire universe. The site consists of a series of articles covering a wide variety of cosmic phenomena, ranging from minor craters on the Moon to entire galaxies."

Cosmic Evolution

From the Wright Center at Tuft's University.  Very much like an online multi-media text book.  Good reference for students and teachers.  A high speed connection is essential for the movies, some of them are quite long.  Like a textbook some of the pages are very wordy, but unlike a text book you can jump to further information instantly for key words that are highlighted in the text.

"This Web site is based mainly on the textbook, Universe by Eric Chaisson, originally published in 1988 by Prentice Hall and now updated significantly for this presentation in cyberspace. The copyright is held by Eric J. Chaisson."

That statement is good news.  Not that it is copyrighted and you can't just run off copies, but that it is based on work by Eric Chaisson.  I have read some of Chaisson's work and he is able to put concepts in to easy to understand words.

Teachers: There are no lesson plans or educational activities here, but it is a great resource!

Center for Educational Resources (CERES) Project

"Through funding from NASA, faculty at Montana State University and classroom teachers from across the nation have developed an extensive library of on-line and interactive K-12 science education materials for teaching astronomy. Closely aligned with the NRC National Science Education Standards, these web based lessons make maximum use of exciting on-line NASA resources, data, and images. In addition to classroom-ready materials using contemporary teaching strategies, CERES has developed several on-line NASA data search engines and two graduate level distance learning courses, available over the internet to K-12 teachers."

3D Atlas of the Universe

"This web page is designed to give everyone an idea of what our universe actually looks like. There are nine main maps on this web page, each one approximately ten times the scale of the previous one. The first map shows the nearest stars and then the other maps slowly expand out until we have reached the scale of the entire visible universe."

A nice little trip through the universe to a distance of 15 billion light years to a "close-up" view at 12.5 light years.  Information on some stars and Messier objects. Not an education site necessarily, but some good educational information.


"The Universe! Education Forum is a national center for teaching and learning about the scientific study of the structure and evolution of the universe. Sponsored by NASA's Office of Space Science, the Forum aims to foster partnerships that use the unique resources of NASA's space science research program to create exciting and substantive learning experiences for students, teachers and the public."


An excellent site by Dr. James Kaler, astronomer and author at the University of Illinois. Skylights gives weekly sky news, updated each Friday, and includes a Star of the Week as well as a new weekly photograph. There is no curriculum here, but is a very informative site for students and teachers wishing to know more about the night sky.

Hands on Universe

"Student research and investigations is a key component of the HOU project. Many students have used HOU to explore astronomical phenomena and have written web-based reports. Some examples of their work is provided here."

Students use telescope images and software to do astronomical research such as searching for asteroids. Nothing free here.  If you want to participate you need to buy their materials.

Infrared Processing and Analysis Center

Infrared astronomy from CalTech.  There is tutorials and information on infrared astronomy and infrared in general here.

GLAST - Gamma Ray Large Area Space Telescope

"The Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) is an international and multi-agency mission planned for launch in 2006. It will study the cosmos looking at objects that emit high energy wavelengths of light."

There is not a lot here to help teachers.  There is some information on Gamma Ray astronomy.  There are some games here that claim to aid in learning about "Space Mysteries".  You have to log in to try these and I have not yet taken the time to look at them.  You might want to try it out. This site seems to still be under construction. (5/2002)

SWAS - Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite This link seems to be dead. Looking for a replacement.  SWAS, however is still valid. (2/05)

This is a very plane looking site with a list of handbooks and workbooks on Radio Astronomy. No help with lesson plans or activities. The pdf format books will give a good background on radio astronomy for those interested. 

Remote Access Astronomy Project This link refuses connection. It may still exist, but connections are currently denied. (2/05) Checked again 4/06. Still no access, but a Google search brings up many references to it. Sounds like a good idea, but where is it?

"The Remote Access Astronomy Project, RAAP, was developed to allow undergraduates in beginning and advanced Astrophysics courses to combine theory with observations by working with satellite imaging data and a Remotely Operated Telescope, ROT. The program has been extended to allow high schools and junior colleges to participate by accessing our Web server and downloading images and educational programs."

Great idea, but I have not yet tried it out.  Some functions on this site did not work, specifically, none of the buttons for further information.

Astronomy Workshop

This site contains some tools for working with astronomy concepts/math.

Enchanted Learning - Astronomy

"Zoom Astronomy is a comprehensive on-line site about space and astronomy. It is designed for people of all ages and levels of comprehension. It has an easy-to-use structure that allows readers to start at a basic level on each topic and then to progress to much more advanced information as desired, simply by clicking on links."

Basically a self teaching resource with some teachers aids like unmarked diagrams to print out for the student to fill in. Any age above grade 4 would probably benefit.

At Home Astronomy This one seems to be dead now also, 4/06.

Astronomy hands-on for family learning from UC Berkeley.

Astronomy On-Line

An outreach project from European Space Agency.  An on-line world wide astronomy event was held in 1996.  What is available on this site is the activities, software and images from this event.  Some of this might be useful in classrooms.  Experiments are HERE.

Project CLEA - Comtemporary Laboratory Experiences in Astronomy


"Project CLEA develops laboratory exercises that illustrate modern astronomical techniques using digital data and color images. They are suitable for high- school and college classes at all levels, but come with defaults set for use in introductory astronomy classes for non-science majors. Each CLEA laboratory exercise includes a dedicated computer program, a student manual, and a technical guide for the instructor. The technical guides describe file formats, user-settable options, and algorithms used in the programs. The most advanced CLEA labs run under Windows on PC's, or on color-capable Macintosh computers. Black and white Mac programs (labeled b/w Mac in the descriptions below) are also available for some of the programs but please note that these do not have all the features of their Windows counterparts, although they share their basic functionality. Some exercises that use public-domain programs running under DOS are also available."

Astronomy Resources for Teachers (Lake Afton Public Observatory)

Some online lessons and astronomical tours.

Your Sky

"Welcome to Your Sky, the interactive planetarium of the Web. You can produce maps in [many] forms ... for any time and date, viewpoint, and observing location. If you enter the orbital elements of an asteroid or comet, Your Sky will compute its current position and plot it on the map. Each map is accompanied by an ephemeris for the Sun, Moon, planets, and any tracked asteroid or comet. A control panel permits customization of which objects are plotted, limiting magnitudes, colour scheme, image size, and other parameters; each control is linked to its description in the help file."

NASA's Observatorium

"NASA's Observatorium is a public access site for Earth and space data. We have pictures of the Earth, planets, stars, and other cool stuff, as well as the stories behind those images."

This site includes teachers guides on how to use the site in the classroom. The teacher's guides include Suggested Grade Levels, Activities, Vocabulary, a Game, Questions, and a Quiz. "A teacher's guide has been developed to accompany each article in the Observatorium. These guides are very basic, providing teachers with a start in the right direction. We encourage educators to print the guides and use them in the classroom or at home. Happy teaching!"

Cosmic Journeys

"Cosmic Journeys is a new series of space-science missions that will explore the essence of time, gravity, matter, and energy."

NASA's Structure and Evolution of the Universe missions. There is news here of some of the new discoveries.  The education link takes you to Universe listed above.


This NASA site contains lessons on the Solar System, Space, Universe, and a Glossary with two learning levels. Intended for ages up to 14. The information is presented in two selectable levels allowing students of different age or interest to access two levels of presentation. There is an obvious difference in the two levels in vocabulary and the way that the information is presented. A question is posed at each page and each page has a "printable" version. You could printout your own book version of this site, but it would take quite awhile to manage the entire site. For 14 and up see Imagine the Universe.
Imagine the Universe and Starchild are available on CD free to educators.

Imagine the Universe

"This site is dedicated to a discussion about our Universe... what we know about it, how it is evolving, and the kinds of objects and phenomena it contains. Just as importantly, we also discuss how scientists know what they know, what mysteries remain, and how they might one day find the answers to these questions. This site is intended primarily for ages 14 and up."

The relation to national math and science standards are spelled out for these pages. The lesson plans are laid out in a table format that makes choice of lessons easy. Imagine the Universe and Starchild are available on CD free to educators.

Some parts of this site show the Math and Science Education Standards that are met by the lesson. There is also a teachers section :

"Currently [As of 5/98], our Teacher Resources include:

Lesson Plans

Adopt an Astronomer

Information about NASA education initiatives and opportunities

Other Education Resources about Imagine the Universe! topics

Other Good General Science Education Web Sites

Life Cycles of Stars - Information and Activity Booklets"

Amazing Space   Space Telescope Science Institute - Education Page

"Amazing Space is a set of web-based activities primarily designed for classroom use, but made available for all to enjoy."

Space Kids

This is a NASA site for kids about space. It is not especially kid friendly and seems a little stiff - but that's just my opinion. It does encourage kids to get involved with space science.  They can upload their own images and there is a section on observing.

Sloan Digital Sky Survey

"This website is presenting data from the SDSS: the Cosmic Genome Project. We would like to show you how magnificent the universe is, and let you share our excitement as we are building the largest map in the history of mankind."

Information about the DSS and astronomy, telescopes, instruments, etc. 

International Astronomical Union

"The International Astronomical Union (IAU) was founded in 1919. Its mission is to promote and safeguard the science of astronomy in all its aspects through international cooperation."

Looking for the politics of astronomy? This is the place. This is the international organization that, in it's own words, "plays a pivotal role in promoting and coordinating worldwide cooperation in astronomy".  No educational lessons or teacher information here, but this is worth a look to see how astronomy works on an international level.


This automated camera takes a series of images of a swath of sky every night.  These images can be used by students to investigate the night sky over a period of time when facilities to do so are not otherwise available. Also check this related site

Cool Cosmos

It IS cool!  Interesting looking home page, but demanding on your computer.  Should be attractive to kids who need some active graphics, kind of game-like.  This is a good site.... It concentrates on Infrared astronomy and does a good job with it.  There is a resources page with posters and  brochures that you can print.  These are very nice, but much better if you can print them in large format (24 x 36 or more), but how many can actually do that?  If you write to them you might be able to get these materials full size.  There are some classroom activities.  My only problem with the site is that is is sometimes hard to figure out how to make it go where you want.  If you  have a problem with that, just ask anyone under the age of 12, they can figure it out!

Astronomy on-line courses, notes, lectures

From Stargazers to Starships

"...a coherent, self-contained course at the high-school level, also suitable  for independent study, rich in history."

Hubble Site/Space Science Institute public talks

Lectures from the Hubble Space Science institute are archived for your viewing at any time. Real Player is needed to view.  The speakers slides are also available in PDF format.

JPL Lectures

JPL archives the lectures for later viewing.  Real Player is needed to view.  Check schedule for live webcasts.

Note: Many free podcasts are available download iTunes.

Journey Through the Galaxy

"This is a "mini-net" of pages that explores our solar system, stars, extra-solar planets, the theories about the past and future of the universe, and human exploration of space."

An online textbook.  There is a basic version that the above link takes you to or an advanced version (college level) here.  This is kept well up to date.

Astronomy 162 - Stars, Galaxies, and Cosmology - University of Tennessee

Astronomy 161 - The Solar System - University of Tennessee

Nick Strobel Astronomy Notes

Also available in print form.

Gene Smith's Astronomy Tutorial

Public outreach from University of California, San Diego, Center for Astrophysics & Space Sciences

Internet Astronomy Course

This is a free online course on astronomy.  Not bad for a good quick background in astronomy.  

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copyright 1998, 2009, j.o. rienhardt